By: Josephine Gurch
Donna Woodwell has the voice of a woman who never runs out of things to say. Abundant, brassy, and ever-fluctuating, one could hear it and easily mistake her for a radio show host or telemarketer, someone trained to tell stories for a living.
Donna now specializes in a field that demands a slightly different approach to communications. As astrologer and multi-skilled esoteric consultant Donna Philosophica, she maintains an ongoing dialogue with the heavens.
“We’re not talking about the ‘hey baby, what’s your sign?’ kind of astrology,” she says. “We’re talking about the really grounded kind where you’re talking about the entire sky — not just one piece of it.”
Donna’s interest in the interstellar began with a childhood pipe dream: to become an astronaut. “I read every book on the stars I could possibly find,” she says. Even though a later viewing of “The Right Stuff,” a film about America’s first manned venture into space, quashed her fantasies of galaxy life, a lingering fondness for the stars would shape the lines of cosmic inquiry she pursued as an adult.
While at grad school, a severe case of allergies – and the chance recommendation of a friend – pushed Donna to learn more about holistic healing and medicine. Another push came from the shamanic teachings of Eileen “Ike” West, who took Donna under her wing and encouraged her to seek out a spiritual tradition to call her own.
Several trips to Half Price Books later, Donna was drawing her birth chart, a map of celestial alignments at the hour of one’s birth. “Astrology became my personal, preferred form of divination,” she says. Years later, after quitting a fundraising job writing grants for the Seton Foundation, Donna found herself drawing birth charts once again – at first as a way to pass time, but soon enough as a means of putting food on the table.
“If you count being able to do what you love and get paid for it as part of the process of human flourishing,” Donna says, “then I feel like I have been blessed many times over. I thoroughly love what I do.”
For her, that sense of fulfillment comes from being able to share with others the wisdom that astrology has to offer. “Who am I, why am I here, and what do I want?” Donna asks. “They are the perennial questions we’ve always asked ourselves, and that’s what astrology is good to help with.”
Skeptics are quick to claim that astrology’s remedial power, even if it calmed the existential fears of ancients, can’t keep pace with cyber culture's many ills. Donna begs to differ, arguing that technology hasn't dispelled the core of not only astrological teachings, but the human condition at large: the pursuit of happiness.
“They put it in the Declaration of Independence!” Donna says. “The right of every person in this country to have the freedom to connect with the divine within themselves.” She relates the divine within to the concept of eudaimonia, a Greek word that literally translates to “human flourishing,” but also etymologically unites “good” (eu) and “spirit” (daimon).
Donna helps her clients awaken their good spirit and use it to find their place in the world. One of her own guiding planets is Mercury, messenger of the gods.
The Greeks sought direction – a compass rose to their happiness – from the same planets. “Astrology was a map of the sky,” Donna says. “The Greeks believed that different planets represented different gods, and each god had his own realm of responsibility and the things it loved doing. So when you connected with the spirit you most aligned with, you were literally following your bliss.”
According to Donna, the internet hasn’t made astrology obsolete. On the contrary, digital media has served to democratize and diversify astrological education, exposing students and teachers alike to a vast corpus of literature, lectures, and perspectives.
With modern-day abusers of secular power escalating their use of spiritual violence and intimidation, the availability of such resources will be nothing short of essential. “When we can reach our full human flourishing potential,” Donna says, “society becomes a very different kind of place. We’re a lot more likely to be tolerant and respectful of one another, and not create chaos and craziness everywhere we go.”
Resources for Beginners / Curious Folks: